Is mercury from a broken CFL dangerous oil

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Petroleum is energy, stored deep in the earth by nature. The word, petroleum, comes from two Latin words: “petra”, a
rock; and “oleum”, oil. This is a non-renewable energy source because petroleum supplies are limited and they draw
on finite resources that will eventually dwindle. Petroleum includes crude oil, condensate and natural gas. They are forms
of chemical energy, which is energy stored in the bonds of atoms and molecules.
Now, petroleum literally turns the wheels of industry. Hundreds of products are made from petroleum. Petroleum is found
in three forms: as a solid, called bitumen; as a liquid, which is usually called crude oil or condensate; and as a gas,
such as methane and ethane. The list is astonishing - and it gets longer every year. Petroleum includes liquefied gases;
motor, aviation and tractor fuels; jet aviation fuel; kerosenes; distillates (diesel fuels and light heating oils); lubricating oils
and greases (more than 1,000 kinds); rust preventives; transformer and cable oils; and asphalts, for road making.
Both liquid oil and natural gas are generally found together.

How was oil formed?

Just how oil was formed is still something of a mystery. Petroleum – both liquid oil and natural gas – does not contain
any obvious clues that tell us about its origins. In contrast, we can follow the development of coal because we can find
traces of prehistoric plant life in coal fragments at all stages of their formation.

All petroleum products are “complete” products and each one is fully developed in the earth and different from all the
others. Some petroleum is thick and waxy and it could be used as axle grease without any changes. But some petroleum
is so light that it could be used to fuel a diesel engine.

Some scientists, known as petroleum geologists, have developed a theory about the formation of this important energy
source. The theory states that petroleum was formed from decayed organic material, both animal and vegetable, that
lived close by – or within - the ocean. The dead material was built up on the ocean floor. Then certain chemical alteration
processes turned the dead material (debris) into fatty and waxy substances.

Over time, the buried substances - dead marine animals and plants – became petroleum. It is estimated that this process
(the conversion of decayed organic material into petroleum) took up to 10 million years. The creation of oil occurred
sometime between 200 and 400 million years ago.

The oil was gradually “squeezed” into the water‟s depths and it continued to rise until it reached a barrier known as a
“seal”. The petroleum then moved along the barrier until it reached the highest point, known as a “trap”. Then it could go
no further. It began to accumulate as more and more was squeezed out of the porous rock. This movement or
“migration”, so long and so slow, often means that petroleum is discovered far away from the place where it was formed,
and in a great variety of rocks. Often, it is found in large amounts in places where rocks have been forced by earth
movements into the form of a dome. Oil rises into the dome and it is trapped there. The rocks that capture the petroleum
are called reservoir rocks.

A typical petroleum deposit is made up of three layers:

        There is a zone where the pores of the rocks are filled with natural gas.
        Underneath the gas is a zone where the rocks have their interstices (or pores) full of oil. This oil also contains
         dissolved gas, as the gas is under great pressure (Similar to bottled gas, propane and butane gases which are
         liquids through pressure.)
        Beneath the oil is water.

For more information:

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Who finds oil and where?

Finding oil was once a job for prospectors who dug wells in places that they thought would be suitable - perhaps a line of
hills or a swamp. So they drilled a hole there and it was known as a “wild-cat” well. But the demand for oil became too
great to rely on guesswork. Wildcat prospectors had to give way to specialist scientists. These scientists are geologists
and geophysicists.

Geologists study rocks and soils in the layers of the earth‟s crust. Many geologists are specialists. Some are interested in
sedimentary rocks. These are called sedimentologists. Others study fossils. They are palaeontologists.

Others specialise in the chemistry of rocks and the fluids they contain. These are geochemists. They work closely with
geophysicists in the search for petroleum. Geophysicists study and measure the physical phenomena of the earth. They
measure temperature, magnetism, earth movements, water flow, assess earthquakes. Their measurements are used for
three purposes:

        First, to improve our knowledge and understanding of the earth (what it is and what makes it tick).
        Second, to find out what is the nature of the earth for the construction of tunnels, buildings, power stations and
         other structures.
        And third, to explore the earth for petroleum, natural gas and minerals, and to establish whether these are
         suitable for commercial exploitation.

To make their measurements, they “read” gravity, electricity, light, shock waves, sound, heat and radioactivity. They put
their instruments on the surface, underground, in water, in the air - or all four. They also produce vibrations in the earth
using vibrating machines or compressed air “guns” in the ocean. Recordings of the transmitted and reflected vibrations
will “tell” them what sort of rocks there are. These are called seismic surveys. (“Seismology” is the study of earthquakes).

Geophysicists can tell petroleum explorers where these large areas of sedimentary rocks (sedimentary basins) are
located. They do this by measuring the gravitational force and the earth‟s magnetic field at the earth‟s surface. Areas of
lower magnetic field strength and lower gravitational force are areas underlain by sedimentary rocks. There are a number
of Australian sedimentary basins.

There are two seismic methods to detect sedimentary rocks: reflection and refraction. In both methods, shock waves
pass through the rock structure and are recorded on a device called a geophone. When their underground maps are
ready, geophysicists hand them over to petroleum engineers, because the only sure way to tell if the petroleum is
actually there is to drill. Tests wells are drilled, to bring up samples of rock. These are studied for evidence of oil.

Oil geophysicists look for sediments. But they know that petroleum often has migrated from the place where it was
formed. So they look for the non-porous rocks that have “trapped” oil. When oil exploration wells are drilled, a range of
“down hole” measurement tools can detect more information from the well, such as rock density, radioactivity, magnetic
strength and porosity. Geophysicists can “read” the differences because their instruments “behave” in different ways for
each. Similarly, differences between coal, water and petroleum can be detected. So geophysicists look for “contrasts”
and these differences tell them about ore bodies and reefs; or ancient earth movements; or strange rocks that
earthquakes have shoved into other rocks.

If oil is there, how much? Can it be recovered? How much can be recovered? If oil or gas is produced from a well, its
pressure and flow rates are accurately measured. Most of the wells that are sunk are dry. Either no oil or gas is found, or
the amount is so small it is not worth getting out.

Today’s oil industry:

During 2005, oil fossil fuels met about 80 per cent of the world‟s demand for transportation fuels and nearly half the
world‟s primary energy demand. Petrol, diesel, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and CNG (compressed natural gas) are
the most common petroleum products used in cars, trucks, trains and buses. In many parts of the world, petroleum fuels
are used in power stations to generate electricity for industries and for providing heating and air conditioning needs.
Kerosene and LPG are bottled and used in homes in some parts of the world for cooking and heating.

Oil and natural gas are Australia‟s two most valuable resource exports. Crude oil accounted for about 35 per cent of
Australia‟s primary energy consumption in 2004/2005, according to The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource
Economics. Natural gas sources filled 19 per cent of primary energy needs in Australia. Western Australia has risen to
prominence as Australia‟s leading oil-producing state. In 2005, Western Australia had 67 producing oil fields and led the
nation in gas and LNG (liquefied natural gas) production. Petroleum (crude oil, condensate and natural gas) had become
the leading contributor to the state‟s resources sector. Crude oil and condensate production averaged 0.052 gigalitres

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per day (328,000 barrels per day). Average gas production was 0.072 giga cubic metres per day. Petroleum products
accounted for more than one third of the value of WA‟s mineral and energy production.

However, the oil and gas industry is at the cusp of significant change, with a number of countries believed to have
passed their oil production peak, signalling an impending tightening of supply in the coming decades. While no-one is
certain, some believe that at our present rate of consumption, the world has around 50 years of crude oil and more than
70 years of natural gas reserves. In recent decades, Australia has been around 80% to 85% net self-sufficient in oil, but
this will fall to around 50% by 2020, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
(CSIRO). The Western Australian Office of Energy predicts that our state‟s crude oil and condensate will sustain a further
25 years‟ consumption at current production levels.

Large regions that are offshore Australia remain lightly explored, so there is a real chance of finding a new oil province.
While some experts predict an imminent world oil shortage, other researchers say that significant, new oil fields will be
discovered, particularly in Russia, the Caspian, Brazil, Angola and Canada.

For information about ‘peak oil:

New energy opportunities:

 “Oil shale”, an “unconventional” oil source, presents opportunities to supply some of the fossil energy needs of the world
in the years ahead. Most oil shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that yield substantial quantities of oil by heating
and distillation. One tonne of oil shale contains more than 200 litres of oil. Total world resources of oil shale are
conservatively estimated at 2.6 trillion barrels.

Australia has significantly large deposits of “proved oil shale in place”. In 1802, a French world scientific expedition
discovered oil shale in New South Wales near the Blue Mountains. In 2005 it was estimated that there were 29 million
barrels of oil shale economic demonstrated resources in Australia.

For more information:

Also, there are other solutions to Australia‟s problem of depleting transport fuels such as diesel oil. Importantly,
international energy companies are exploring options to directly convert Australia‟s abundant natural gas reserves into
clean, non-polluting liquids, in the form of diesel or aviation fuels. This process is known as “Gas to Liquid”, or GTL.

For more information about gas to liquids:

Oil refining:
Crude oil is also known as petroleum and it is a fossil fuel, meaning that it was made naturally from decaying plants and
animals that lived in ancient seas millions of years ago. Raw oil or unprocessed crude oil is not very useful in its original
form out of the ground. It is made up of a mixture of complex hydrogen and carbon molecules, known as “hydrocarbons”.
These hydrocarbon molecules can vary in length and complexity, meaning that there are different types of crude oil. You
can find crude oil in different colours (from a clear colour to tar black) and it can be a liquid oil or it can turn into a solid
substance at room temperature.

The refining process is aimed at separating the crude oil and breaking it down into its separate hydrocarbon components.

Broadly speaking, the world‟s oil refineries developed in the main oil-consuming regions. It was cheaper to move the
basic crude oil from a large, oil-producing region than it was to move the finished product. While there are a few
exceptions, the main oil refineries are still located in the “consuming” regions.

How does an oil refinery work?

The crude oil is sent by ship, pipeline, truck or rail to the oil refinery, where its components are processed physically and
chemically into refined petroleum products. Crude oil is delivered by ship to Western Australia‟s only oil refinery, the BP
Refinery in Kwinana.

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Four basic processes are carried out by BP at Kwinana to convert crude oil into a sophisticated range of marketable
products. The processes are distillation, separation, conversion and purification.

A b o ve - T he m a i n d i s ti l l at i o n c ol um n ( fr o nt ) o n c r u de di s t i l l at i on uni t 1 a t t h e B P O i l R ef i n e r y i n K wi n an a.
Im a ge c o ur te s y o f B P Oi l R efi n er y, K wi n a na .


Crude oil is fed to Kwinana‟s two Crude Distillation Units. Distillation is a simple boiling process of a complex mixture
(crude oil). Through the distillation process, crude oil is separated into a number of other oil components that have
different boiling points (or, in other words, these components will boil at different temperatures). An oil residue is also
produced through distillation.

Vacuum Distillation

 Vacuum distillation is used to remove the waxy gas oils of high boiling range which remain in the residue. Vacuum
distillation means that the pressure inside the distillation column is lower than atmospheric pressure. This process
enables heavy oils to be boiled at temperatures below their normal boiling point, thus avoiding the breakdown of the
component hydrocarbons.

The Conversion Process

1. Catalytic Reforming
A b o ve - T he c at al yti c r ef o rm e r at B P Oi l R ef i n e r y, K w i na n a.
Im a ge c o ur te s y o f B P Oi l R efi n er y, K wi n a na .

The catalytic reformer is one of the most important units. Kwinana‟s state-of-the-art plant uses a platinum based
“catalyst” to convert naptha feedstock (an oil by-product of the distillation process) into another product that is used in
petrol and aviation gasoline.

Hydrogen is a by-product of catalytic reforming and this useful gas is used in a number of other refinery processes.

2. Isomerisation

Isomerisation is another conversion process used within the BP Kwinana Refinery to chemically change the structure of
molecules to improve their performance as gasoline fuels.

3. Catalytic Cracking

In the residue catalytic cracker, heavier and less valuable components are converted into lighter and more useful
substances. Heat, a little pressure and the presence of an aluminium silica “catalyst” will break down or “crack” the large
molecules of the oil. This process produces the majority of the motor spirit components.

4. The Alkylation Plant

Alkylation converts certain refinery gas streams into a liquid product suitable for blending into aviation gasoline or motor

The Purification Process

A “desulphurisation” process is used to lower the sulphur content of middle oil distillates so that they can be used as, or
blended into, diesel oil.

Also, feedstock from the vacuum distillation unit is passed through various processes to separate wax and asphalt
impurities. The resultant product is used to generate a wide range of lubricating oils, wax and bitumen.

How oil refining works:

The most common products in a major oil refinery include:

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        Petroleum gas – used for heating, cooking, making plastics. It is also known as ethane, methane, butane,
         propane, or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas). In the oil refinery, petroleum gas is formed at a boiling range of less
         than 40 degrees Celsius.

        Naptha – an intermediate product that will be further processed to make gasoline. In the oil refinery, naptha is
         formed at a boiling range of 60-100 degrees Celsius.

        Petrol or gasoline – used for motor fuel. In the oil refinery, the gasoline is formed at a boiling range of 40-205
         degrees Celsius.

        Kerosene – a “starting” material for jet fuel which is used for jet engines. Kerosene is also used for lamps and
         heaters. In the oil refinery, the kerosene is formed at a boiling range of 175-325 degrees Celsius.

        Gas oil or diesel distillate - used for diesel fuel and heating oil; it‟s also a “starting” material for making other
         products. In the oil refinery, the gas oil is formed at a boiling range of 250-350 degrees Celsius.

        Lubricating oil – used for motor oil, grease and other lubricants. In the oil refinery, the lubricating oil is formed at
         a boiling range of 300-370 degrees Celsius.

        Fuel oil – used for industrial fuel; it‟s also a “starting” material for making other products. In the oil refinery, the
         heavy gas is formed at a boiling range of 370-600 degrees Celsius.

        Residuals – coke, asphalt, tar, waxes: they are “starting” materials for making other products. In the refinery, the
         residual oils are formed at a boiling range greater than 600 degrees Celsius.

There is only one oil refinery in Western Australia: the BP refinery in Kwinana. It pumps out most of the fuels used for
Western Australian cars, trucks, farm machinery and aircraft that refuel here, as well as ships. The rest of our petrol and
diesel (less than a tenth) is imported.

At the Kwinana refinery, the different types of crude oils are blended and then refined into petrol, diesel, aviation fuel,
liquid petroleum gas (LPG), bitumen and a few chemicals. This can take a month and may need ten stages. The main
refinery processes involve distillation, separation, conversion, purification and blending or upgrading.

For more information about Kwinana Refinery:

For more information about the history of oil refining, go to:

For a list of the world’s main oil refineries, go to:

Oil, gas and electricity generation:

Western Australia‟s Kwinana Power Station was built in 1970 and it was originally designed for “Bunker C” heavy fuel oil.
However, the 1973 Middle East oil crisis resulted in a sudden, sharp increase in oil prices, causing a corresponding
increase in electricity production costs.

To reduce the reliance on oil, the State Energy Commission of Western Australia (SEC of WA) decided to recommission
coal at its East Perth and South Fremantle Power Stations. Also, the new Kwinana Stage C (5 and 6) generating units
were converted so they could use both coal and oil by April 1979. Later Stage A was also coal-converted by April 1983.
With the North West Shelf gas developments, all units were also configured to burn gas in the mid 1980s.

Kwinana Power Station became one of the few power stations in the world that could use either oil, coal or natural gas
and change over to a different fuel at the mere press of a button. This was seen as an engineering feat, attracting
industry visitors from all over the world. Kwinana Power Station has a total generating capacity of 900 megawatts (MW),
or enough energy to light nine million globes of 100 watts each.

For more information:

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      General information about oil and its formation:

      Information about „peak oil:

      Information about oil shale:

      Information about gas to liquids:


      Information about oil refining:

      Oil, gas and electricity generation in Western Australia:

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